How did it occur that spirits promised to Allah (SWT) in pre-eternity? Is it something symbolic?

Saying that The Misak (Promise) (1) is a divine guidance through representation and metaphor, some interpreters say as follows, This is a metaphor. That human beings have been created in a way to be able to know about dominicality of Allah (SWT), in one respect, has been regarded as if they did really witness such an event.

Most of the Quran annotators are of the opinion that both divine speech and the answers that spirits gave had truly happened and not a symbolic one. Mehmed Vehbi, one of the outstanding annotators of the Quran, expresses this opinion as follows: Even though it is probable for them to answer with the manner-tongue without giving mind and life, the more probable one is that He gave mind, life, and speech, and showed the proofs to be reminiscent of his Creativity and Dominicality They answered the question with a speech by comprehending it.

We do need to indicate a point. Some verses include the event of The Promise. If one person cannot grasp the event of The Promise in its full sense, he may accept that this is a metaphor by agreeing on the opinions of the scholars who are fewer in this respect. Thus, he may save himself from the scruples of the Satan and would not give opportunity to his evil-self to speak tactlessly. To deny the verses completely is one thing, and to ignore one of the interpretations by adopting one of them is quite another thing.

(1) According to the Islamic terminology, this term refers to an event which is as follows: In pre-eternity, before anything was created, Allah (SWT) gathered the human spirits in His presence and asked them, Am I not your Lord, and all of the spirits replied, Yes, You are our Lord, henceforward, human beings have taken the responsibility and accepted the testing on earth.

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Mrs Shahid

Thank you for elaboration on this, I read somewhere that that the promise went beyond this and a choice was given. The promise included for a human to be a representative of Allah on earth, to believe in Him, to do good and to advise other to do right and to observe patience as prescribed for all of us in Surah Asr. Can you please elaborate on the promise, if there were further things.

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Editor (editor)

Allah created the spirits of all people before He created the world and the beings in it. He brought them together in a place called the realm of spirits. Then, he brought all of them to his presence and asked them:

– Alastu birabbikum= Am I not your Lord? The spirits answered:

– Qalu:Bala=They said:Yes you are. They also said, “Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek.” The time when the conversation above took place is called Qalu Bala.

Then, Allah created the world as a place of testing and trial in order to find out to what extent the spirits were sincere and truthful in their promises. He placed each spirit into a different body and sent them to the world, the place of testing and trial, in certain intervals. Thus, man had two choices:

He will either use his mind and will in a good way and continue to know Allah as his Lord or he will use his mind and will in a bad way and deny Allah, avoiding worshipping him and following the way of the devil.

We, as Muslims, give Allah endless thanks that we have kept our promises that we gave our Lord in Qalu Bala. We hope (inshaallah) we will continue to keep our promises until the last breath.

Most of the tafseer scholars state, based on verse 172 of Chapter al-Araf, that the mithaq started in the uterus ant that the question and the answer took place during the phase when the body was given the soul.

It will be easy to understand it when we take into consideration that Allah is free from time. Although people who were created in different times came to his world before and after others, they were all ready in the pre-eternal knowledge of Allah and they were asked that question all together at the same time.

With the question “Am I not your Lord?” in the Mithaq, people’s attention were drawn to the divine education given to them and they were taught that they should believe in Allah and worship Him as lucky slaves who were educated as human beings in return for this endowment of Allah. It will not be right to forget this message by discussing about the Mithaq.

Mithaq, in Arabic, means “strengthening, covenant, oath”. And the “Primeval Mithaq” took place when the souls answered the question “Am I not your Lord?” of God Almighty as “Yes, for certain, you are our Lord.”

Our tafseer scholars unanimously agree that the address to the souls was not verbal, that is, it does not have the quality of addressing as in the Quran or other heavenly books. Elmalılı Hamdi underlines that it is like the orders given to the angels and it is not verbal. He says: “It is not necessary to think that it is asking and answering by calling to witness as we understand it, and to think it as a covenant in literal sense.”

Accordingly, the question that the souls were asked was a nonverbal address like an inspiration.

God Almighty swears by some creatures beginning from the sun in Chapter ash-Shams. One of those creatures is the ‘soul’. The following is stated in the verse:

“By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it”

In the verse, it is stated that the human conscience was given the ability to discriminate between the good and the bad and the fact that the ability was given was expressed as inspiration. And the question, “Am I not your Lord?” occurred as inspiration.

The conversation is not a conversation having voices, letters and syllables. Since the body had not been formed yet at that time, we should understand that conversation as the speech of the soul.

We cannot know the true nature of that address and the answer, and we are not responsible for it. However, we should state this: In a true dream, a lofty meaning is flown into the heart of a believer. When he wakes up in the morning, he understands that his Lord spoke to him through inspiration and starts to act in accordance with the inspiration. The conversation of his Lord with him in his dream, and his decision to act accordingly do not resemble to the conversations and decisions when he is awake at all.

We are addressed two questions about the Mithaq. The first one is: “Why do we not remember the Mithaq?” The second is “Will it make us free of responsibility not to remember it?”

At first, let us have a look at the first question: When a human being is in the uterus for four months, his body is given the soul. The soul has no information about the body it will stay as a guest for five months. In addition, it is not aware that it is a soul that it is equipped with many feelings like sight and hearing, spiritual capitals like mind, memory and imagination. When he comes to the world, he does not know the world, either. He passes the period of childhood; he becomes a youth. He becomes an exceptional being that uses his mind and evaluates himself and the world he lives in and that produces some questions in his inner world and seeks answers to them. Even in that state, he does not remember his infantry and the phases in the uterus. Then he asks, “Why do I not remember the Mithaq?”

It is necessary to approach the question from two aspects. The first one is: Our Lord limited us with many things in this world and we benefit from it. For instance, He limited our sight therefore we do not see everything. If we saw the dazzling actions of the atoms when we looked at the things, we would lose our balance; maybe it would be impossible for us to live in this world. If we saw all of the bacteria on the ground that we step, we would not be able to walk easily.

Our Lord, who imposed those limitations, limited our memory too. We do not remember our infantry period, what happened during that period and before it, that is, the phases in the uterus. One of the things that took place during the period we were in the uterus is the question of the Mithaq. If we could remember the Mithaq, everybody in this world would believe in Allah and the testing and trial in this world would be meaningless.

Another aspect of the question is as follows: We read a lot about it in the miracles of the Prophet. A tree talks miraculously and approves the prophethood of the Messenger of Allah (pbuh). Then, it returns to its normal state and continues its life unaware of anything.

If God Almighty gave consciousness to the apple tree for a moment and asked it “Am I not the one that trained you so that you would yield apples?” or asked the bee, “Am I not the one that trained you so that you would produce honey?”, the answer to those questions and similar ones would be “Yes, you trained us.”

The human soul could be asked the same question: “Am I not the one that trained you as the human soul and that made you talented for many sciences and skills by equipping you with material and spiritual capitals?”

The human soul would answer that question as “Yes, it is you who trained me like that.”

As a matter of fact, the souls were asked that question and they answered that divine address as, “Yes, you are our Lord.”

As for the question “Will it make us free of responsibility not to remember the Mithaq?”, İsmail Hakkı Bursevi answers that question as follows:

“When Allah sent the prophets, He informed them about that covenant. Even if the humans do not remember it, the word of the prophets will be regarded as evidence against them. When a person does not perform one rakat of a prayer and forgets about it and when trustworthy people remind him about it, their word is regarded as evidence against him.”

When a believer “praises Allah, the Lord of the worlds,” in each rakat of the prayers, he kind of renews his mithaq. He thanks his Lord by thinking that all of the beings that surround him and help him underwent a divine education. Then, he looks at his own being, which is a tiny example of this universe. He sees that all of the actions of education in him are carried out in the most appropriate way to help him.

To think about those actions of education that surround man from inside and outside leads man to worship Allah. By saying “Thee do we worship, and Thine aid we seek” and continuing to read the chapter during the prayer, he renews his mithaq. He says “You are our Lord; we worship you and we ask help only from you not from anybody else.”

Why do we not remember the pact (the promise that all the souls gave to God when they had been asked “am I not your Lord?”)?

The spirit is placed into man’s body when he is four months old in their mothers’ womb. The soul has no information about that body it is going to stay for the next five months. Moreover, it is neither aware that it is a soul nor has it been equipped with capabilities of senses like seeing and hearing, nor intangible assets like mind, memory and imagination. When it is born to this world, it does not have any information about this world either. It undergoes childhood, grows up and becomes an adolescent. It turns into an exceptional being that sets its mind to work, analyzes itself and the world it lives in, comes up with questions of its own and tries to find answers to those questions. Even in that state of questioning, it does not remember its infancy and especially the phases it experienced in the mother’s womb. Then, it questions, “Why do I not remember the divine pact?”

I will approach this question from two aspects:


Our Lord imposes limitations on us and we benefit from all those limitations. For example, he has limited our sight and hence we cannot see everything. If we were able to see atoms’ giddy movements, we would lose our balance and maybe it would not be possible for us to live in this world. If we were able to see all the bacteria on the ground, we would not be able to walk easily.

That is the case in our hearing too. If we were able to hear the footsteps of all insects while we were resting on the grass, we would not be able to rest. If we were able to hear high pitched sounds, we would be disturbed and maybe lose our hearing ability. We can only hear a specific range of frequencies and that is the most beneficial to us.

Our Lord, who set those constraints, has put limitations on our memory as well. We do not remember our infancy, what we have experienced in that period and anything before that, that is the period in the mother’s womb. One of the incidents we encountered in the womb but are not able to remember later is the “pact issue”. If we could remember the pact, then everyone would believe in Allah (God) and there would be no point of being tested for our belief.

The other aspect:

We often read through the Prophet’s miracles: An animal speaks and affirms the prophethood of the messenger of Allah God) (pbuh). Then, the animal goes back to its normal state (being a non-speaking animal) and resumes without being aware of anything.

Miracles related to the talking of the trees are exactly the same.

If God, the Supreme Being, granted consciousness to an apple tree for a moment and asked the tree “is it not me, who forms you in a way that you can produce apples?”, or asked a honeybee, “is it not me, who forms you in a way that you can produce honey?”, their answer to those and similar questions would be “yes, it is you who forms us in every way”.

The same question can be proposed to the human soul:

“Is it not me, who forms you to be a human soul, makes you capable of many sciences and skills by equipping you with physical and spiritual assets?”

The human soul would answer “Yes, it is you who forms me in every way”.

As a matter of fact, this question had been asked and the souls replied that Divine addressing by saying “Yes, you are our Lord”.

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